Big news out tonight from the Associated Press, which previously broke word that MLB and the Players Association were potentially going to negotiate significant economic issues before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, effectively re-opening the CBA (which would be a first in the 50 years of the CBA era).
Tonight’s update is that certain rules changes – including one impacting the economics of the game – are set to be accepted and put into place for next season:
AP sources: MLB, players union near deal for rosters to expand to 26 in 2020 https://t.co/9w5V1oadOn
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) March 6, 2019
Read the AP report for the full rundown, but among the most notable items is that active rosters would expand to 26 players, with a maximum of 13 pitchers, in the 2020 season. That means teams – most already carry 13 pitchers – would be able to carry an additional young bench bat, and/or could more easily carry a veteran player of limited defensive ability.
In September, rosters would expand only to 28, rather than 40 (maximum 14 pitchers), reducing the way the game changes completely in its final month. That has the potential to sting many younger players who see their first – and sometimes only – big league action in September, but it also would improve the churn of relievers in September.
Surprisingly, it sounds like the three-batter minimum rule change is NOT going to be part of this deal, even as the league has agreed to give up the pitch clock until at least 2022. I’m bummed on that one, since I have always seen the merits in cutting out single-batter relievers.
Speaking of which, the minimum stay on the Injured List would increase to 15 days for pitchers, and ditto the minimum time down after an option – the goal there is to stop teams from using the IL and minor league options to effectively work with a 10+ pitcher bullpen.
There is more in the AP report, and although nothing is finalized just yet, it sure seems like it’s trending that way. Once this deal is in place, the league and the players will apparently begin negotiating core elements of the CBA, well before the expiration in 2021. It’ll be as if the CBA is “up,” but there’s no looming threat of a strike or lockout. That approach would be a very wise concession by the owners, who dominated the last two CBAs, but seem to know just resting on that is not going to be optimal for the sport (or even tenable over the next three years).